BAKER, La. (WAFB) - July Fourth weekend is a typical time to honor the troops. But holding a memorial service for a veteran who passed away nearly 30 years ago, is well, different.
A few weeks back, a grave marker for World War II veteran Lt. Parley Mark Stearns was found in a random field in Brownwood, Texas. Stearns was cremated way back when, and his daughter Ruth Lecompte, who lives in Baker, La., didn’t even know the marker existed.
"My husband came into the bedroom and woke me up and said 'where is your father buried’ and I said in Lake Brownwood because that’s where his ashes were spread. And he said, ‘well they found his gravestone marker’ and I said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’” said Lecompte.
Instead of just shipping it to her, commanders from Texas and Louisiana had a better plan.
They drove the stone which weighs at least 130 pounds more than six hours from Brownwood to Baker Sunday and held a memorial service for Stearns.
“This would be the best thing we could do,” said Keith King, department of Texas commander. “Instead of just shipping it and make it impersonal, let’s bring back a World War II veteran’s last memorial or last remembrance. Because that’s our mission, to honor the history and the memory of our dead.”
Lecompte wasn’t at her father’s first service 30 years ago. So 30 years later, she got to honor her dad, whose stone will now be buried next to her brother’s at the Port Hudson National Cemetery in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“When I first talked to her, we were talking about putting it at the national cemetery,” said Mark Williams, commander of DFW Post 4224 in Baker. "She didn’t want to take the place of another veteran but I said, ‘no, he earned the place in there.’”
So now, something Lecompte didn’t even know existed a month ago has become her most treasured item.
“He was a good person,” Lecompte said. “A lot of people liked him.”